Thursday, 15 August 2019

Agile2019 Wrap Up

So here we are again.. years between posts. Every so often I plan to write more and then procrastinate.. procrastinate.. procrastinate while I try to find the perfect words. I think that is why Lynne Cazaly's message of Ish speaks to me so much.

There were so many ways I thought of putting this post together.. appreciations, highlights, reflection on the week that was, the journey from Agile2018 to Agile2019, and so on. None of them felt exactly right on their own, so here's a bit of all of them together.

"Welcome to your conference..." I heard this sentiment, or some variation of it, fairly often Saturday and Sunday leading up to the conference officially starting and it never sat quite right with me. After reflecting on it, I figured out why. This wasn't MY conference. I played a part in putting it together, sure. So did hundreds of other people - the program team, track chairs, reviewers, volunteers, event planners, speakers, and so on. There were pieces of my personality sprinkled throughout the event in places like the keynotes and experimental tracks, but that doesn't make it mine. This conference is OUR conference.. all of ours.

Which leads me into the thank yous.

The Program Team - Emma Armstrong, Brandon Carlson, and Dana Pylayeva: You three made this past year so much fun. We had some adventures together, ate wayy too many skillet brownies, and put together a pretty fantastic program. Sharing this experience with you was an honour and a privilege.

Sam Laing - Your suggestion for the Self Care track was exactly the right fit for the conference. You made it a welcoming and warm space for people to be open, vulnerable, and reflective.

Chris Edwards, Evan Leybourn & Zach Bonaker - My BACon pals. You were there throughout the year, listening, supporting, doing whatever needed to be done, and helping me stay sane through this, even if things did get a bit teary a couple of times. There are to be no more "I love you mans" over breakfast.

Chris Li - Every time I saw you, you just opened up and pulled me in to the biggest bear hugs. Those opportunities to pause, breathe, and recharge were amazing. Thank you for sharing your energy with me.

Tricia Broderick - None of this happens without you. Thank you for pushing me, believing in me, and just reminding me that I got this.  I'm eternally grateful for you and your friendship.

Bernie Maloney - My main partner in Tiny Tamsen Adventures. Thank you for giving of yourself and your time in making the week great for everyone around you. It was an absolute pleasure to spend more time with you this year.

Tiny Tamsen's Agile2019 Goals
Many thanks to everyone else who took Tiny Tamsen on adventures throughout the week and shared their photos. It was your efforts that let us share the conference with our friend at home.

Which transitions nicely into highlights for the week...

Tiny Tamsen was obviously a highlight on her own, but the highlight for me was when it all started. Sunday afternoon I had a quick video chat with Tamsen Mitchell to let her know about Tiny Tamsen and what was coming during the week. Tiny Tamsen's adventures were a highlight not just for me, but so many others.

Brandon's 3 goals for the conference while pointing to Emma, Dana, and I - keep her happy, keep her happy, and keep her happy.

Do not pet this cat.
I left the room after Michele Sliger's lightning talk about cats with my face hurting from laughing so much. The joy of that quick 5 minute session carried on to the end of the conference and beyond.

We laughed, cried, and cheered in Tricia's stalwarts session. Chris Li provided excellent facilitation and energy to the room as well.

The pre-conference run with Emma Armstrong was the best way for us to kickstart the event. The time we spent together running and walking the canal was the perfect calm before the storm.

All of the visits to the Crab Cake Cafe and the amazing company. Thanks for joining me there: Seb, Dana, Emma, Chris, and Evan.

My Agile2019 yearbook, the amazing and hilarious gift from the track chairs.

#WheelFun with Doc List, Linda Rising, and Chris Edwards was a lovely way to spend Thursday evening. Thank you Linda for playing along by taking a picture of Doc taking a picture of Chris taking a picture of me taking a picture of Tiny Tamsen.

Being up on the stage in front of everyone was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Opening the conference was amazing, but nothing compared to seeing Jessica walk out with that big bunch of balloons at the end of the conference. That moment was immediately one-upped when I got to share the stage with and pass the role of conference chair on to Emma. In that moment it was just her and I and all we've been through together.

Thinking back to the Track Chair retrospective in 2015 (also in DC) and introducing my new friend Emma to the group, neither of us ever thought we'd share a moment together like we did Friday morning. I love you my friend and you will do an amazing job with Agile2020.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Agile2017 Reflections

So much for trying to write more often.. just over a year between posts. Yikes!

Agile2017 was really different for me this year. I was part of the Program Team for this year's event, which is completely different from my previous roles working on only one track. It gave me a new perspective on the event and all of the work that goes into making sure that 2500 people have a fantastic week.

There are a lot of people who deserve a huge "Thank You!" for their part in making the week amazing. Here are some that had an impact for me (I'm sure I've missed some in the wave of exhaustion. Sorry.):

  • Tricia Broderick: The job you did as conference chair this year was amazing. Thank you for picking me as a part of your team, for the introductions to a whole lot of fantastic people, for our daily highs and lows, and for being there for me when I needed you. 
  • The Elastic Crew: I am in awe of how you all keep so many things moving at the same time. No matter how crazy things got, you were smiling and joking. Thanks for all of the incredible work you do! Well that and the Sorry cards.. they still crack me up.
  • The Volunteers especially Becky Hartman & Sarah Klarich: #purpleshirtpride! You all are the face of the event to so many people. Thank you for facing this entire week with such amazing energy and patience. You've definitely made an impression on my little purple shirt in training!
  • The Process at Scale Track Chairs: Ardita & Jake, Sam & Dana, Diana & Nivia, and Karen & Melissa - Thank you all for your work leading up to the event and during the week to make sure our program was amazing!
  • Mike Lowery, Chris Edwards, Krystina Edwards & James Trott: Thanks to each of you for your support without asking any questions. Those moments when I could pause and recharge with each of you kept me going through the week.
  • Lyssa Adkins: Thank you for always knowing what I need even when I do not recognize it myself.
  • Karen Greaves & Sam Laing: You two always crack me up. Thank you for your infectious energy! I think back to that first year and how lucky I was to sit next to the two of you in the very first session of the week. 
  • Linda Rising: Thank you for the highlight of my week. Earlier in the year, you spoke to my daughter's 5th grade class about growth mindsets. Maddy was so excited to meet you. You were present, patient and kind with her and that moment touched my heart. After meeting you, Maddy skipped and danced through the hotel with the biggest smile on her face.
  • and finally thank you to Eliana at the hotel for resolving my bottle opener emergency so quickly.
See you all in San Diego for Agile2018!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Agile2016 Appreciations

The Agile2016 conference has come and gone. It was an amazing week filled with many memorable moments.  As well as a moment I would prefer to forget, but will learn and grow from instead  (possibly more on that another time). Today the focus is on the inspiring moments and saying a heartfelt "Thank You!" to the people who made them happen.

  • The Agile2016 Program Team - Brian, David, Diane and Tricia: Thank you for giving us the best conference we could have this year. I was thrilled to be a part of the Track team again this year, so thank you for inviting me back.
  • My Track Co-Chair - Jake Calabrese: Thank you for being an excellent partner this past year. You gave me an outlet to express a vision for the track and then pushed it further. It was a joy working on the track with you this year. Thank you for your energy, support and the beads.
  • The Working With Customers Review Team - Thank you for your dedication reviewing, coaching and evaluating submissions. We took a group of people from around the world and created a team. The great program on our track this year is largely because of you.
  • Anu & Kate: A special thank you to the two of you for stepping in less than a month before the conference and delivering a wonderful session.
  • The Agile2016 Volunteers: Purple shirt pride! Thank you all for keeping things running so smoothly all week long. Whether you were helping set up for a session, packing up a room full of supplies after a session, or managing full rooms and waiting crowds you were always smiling and helpful.
  • Lynne Cazaly: Thank you for your session on Making Sense. Throughout the week you kept encouraging me to keep trying to apply what you taught. Your session and support made the entire rest of the conference better.
  • The Speakers: Thank you all for the excellent content this week. You brought such great energy and passion to your sessions this week. Special thanks to the speakers on the Working with Customers track. You made our job to pick the best sessions quite tough this year because there were so many excellent options. 
  • Collective Soul & Mike Cottmeyer: What an amazing evening this was. The final song when Mike took to the stage with the band was so joyful and uplifting. Thank you Mike and Collective Soul for letting us share it with you.
  • Tricia: an extra shout out to you. Thank you for making me feel included and welcome. All the little things you did this past week made a big difference - opening your suite, twisting my rubber arm to go to Collective Soul (I am incredibly grateful that I could experience that moment), including my hubby too and making him feel welcome, and all the little conversations throughout the week. You are going to do an amazing job as the conference chair next year!
  • and lastly, my husband Michael: I'm glad we finally got to experience this event together. You were there to celebrate the high points of the week and comfort me through the lowest one too. Thank you for being there through the anxiety and panic, for all the fun we had exploring the city, and for all the love and support this week and every week.

Thank You.

Monday, 16 November 2015

The New Normal

The last few weeks have been weird. Not having to get up and go to the office is so strange. Right now I have the time to do all of those things that get pushed off. I can do yoga or run every day, finish crafting projects, bake and clean and be more involved with my daughter's activities. Some days it is harder than others to stay motivated. It would be easy to get up in the morning, flop down on the couch and spend the day playing mindless games or binge watching tv. Then when I am back to work again I would look back on this break as wasted time.

Like most people, I like having a routine to stay focused and motivated. My new routine is starting to take shape. Getting up at 5:30 and to be in the office by 7 is replaced with sleeping until 7 and having breakfast with my daughter before taking her to the school bus. Morning standups are replaced with morning walks. Meeting time is now cleaning or crafting time.

This new normal still needs some tweaking, but so far I am better rested, less stressed and more engaged with my little family. My to do list of projects is shrinking - I've finished 2 toques, 2 scarves and a blanket.  Next up is a sweater and vacation scrapbooks. I've baked my Christmas cookies and made cupcakes for school. My reading list is both growing and shrinking.. mostly growing right now, but that should change soon. I've also made it to every soccer game and practice and to piano and swimming too.

The challenge will be in not letting these things get pushed off as much again when the next routine is made, but for now I am determined to take advantage of this opportunity.. this gift of my time.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Hygge Time

The first snow of the winter is falling, the clocks fell back and the sun is around less and less. The season of seasonal affective disorder is on us. Canadian winters are long, cold and dark. It can be difficult to stay positive when the gloomy weather sets in for the better part of the next 6 months.

Many other places, such as the Scandinavian countries, have rough winters. Denmark is regularly near the top of the happiest places to live - ranked first in 2013 and 2014 before slipping to third in 2015. The Danes have a way to combat the dreariness and that is through hygge (pronounced hooga).

Now the rough translation of hygge is coziness, but there is so much more to it. Think about the feeling you get when you cuddle up in a warm blanket by the fireplace with a mug of mulled juice and a good book.  Or when you get together with friends for a great meal where you can take your time to enjoy the food and each other's company. That's hygge.

It's about creating a social atmosphere and togetherness. Slow things downs for a bit. You can't rush hygge. Warm light from an abundance of candles or a fireplace sets the mood. Add in good food and good company. Let that feeling and the warmth soak in. That is what gets you through an extended winter with a smile on your face.

One example of hygge is the annual cookie baking day I host in November. Friends and family gather around my dining room table and to roll the cookie dough into little balls. The house is warm from all of the people and the ovens running all day. The scent of freshly baked cookies fills the air and lasts for days. Everyone is talking, laughing and enjoying our time together.  At the end of the day, each person leaves with a tin of cookies to enjoy over the holidays. It's something that we all look forward to when the weather starts to turn colder. It's a wonderful hygge time.

This year when the winter blues start to set in, add some hygge to your life. Light some candles, grab your coziest sweater and a cup of cocoa and take the time to enjoy it.

Friday, 16 October 2015

How Do You Define Yourself?

"We're shutting down the office."

And with those words I found myself out of work for the first time since my daughter was born. When I talk with people I know about the office closing, I've had a couple of them make comments that I shouldn't have left my position with a government agency to take the job in the tiny remote office. Government jobs are typically much more stable. I probably could have stayed there until retirement, but I wanted to work somewhere that I could make a difference. I wanted the energy and adventure of the tiny office and they delivered.

As things were winding down in the office, I was thinking about that government job. Specifically my mind kept coming back to a couple of conversations from years ago that I had with the fellow in HR. One day he challenged me to make a list of the ways I define myself. Am I a worker, a wife, a mother, etc? I went away, thought it through and came back with my list. When we sat down to discuss my list, he asked why I had my career at the top of the list. Was I defining myself first by my job? He pointed out that it can be dangerous to define yourself by your job because when things happen, such as a reorg to a new role or losing that job, then you lose that part of your identity. That makes those types of changes harder. The other danger in defining yourself by your job is that you are limiting yourself to that definition, so it can be difficult to branch out to new opportunities.

We worked through each of the items on my list and chatted about why I would define myself like that. When we got through the top 5, he pointed out that one of my most important roles - that of me as an individual - wasn't on the list at all. He asked me if I thought that I could be the best possible version of myself if the first item on that list wasn't about me as a living, breathing person with my own hopes and dreams. His point was that I was doing a disservice to the other roles that were important in my life by not being the best version of myself.  It was quite the aha moment.

It's like when they tell you in the airline safety briefing, put on your own mask before assisting others. I had forgotten that I even had a mask. The first step to changing my definition was to identify those moments where I was forgetting to put my mask on first and modify the behaviour. I started to pay closer attention for those opportunities to put me as the individual first where I wouldn't have done so before. Today my list of how I define myself is quite different from the one I wrote all those years ago.

Over the years, I've noticed the same behaviours in others. Those moments when it seems like they are defining themselves as something else first, always take me back to this conversation and my journey since then. So I pose the same question to them - how do you define yourself?

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Taking the Plunge... Literally

I am not a strong swimmer. To be honest, I swim like a rock and being in the water makes me uncomfortable. My daughter swims like a fish; she loves being in the water and jumping in the deep end of the pool. Earlier this summer we were at the pool together I noticed that my daughter  splashed around in the shallow area with me and didn’t go into the deep end or jump off of the diving board. When I asked her why, she told me that she knew I didn’t like doing those things and she wanted to stay with me. That was when I realized that my fear was holding her back and I decided that it was time to face my fear of the water.

The local pool offers a swimming class for adults called Scared Stiff. That seemed like a good place to start. The instructor was calm and patient with everyone in the class. She started us off with everyone sharing with the group why they were taking Scared Stiff lessons. This created a lasting connection between the students. The students were all very supportive of each other. We cheered when someone put their face in the water even if they came up sputtering or tried floating on their own. We encouraged each other to continue facing our fears and learning new skills. By the end of the session, the majority of the students were planning to continue with lessons.

When Scared Stiff ended, I signed up for another set of lessons. The instructor this time around was not as patient with the students that needed help. She started the class off with asking each person one on one about their goal for the session. The class was split in two based on ability. Most of the students were focused on their own needs. More than half of the class struggled and a couple of people stopped coming to lessons entirely.

The difference between the two classes got me thinking about the importance of creating the right kind of environment for learning. People are more likely to succeed in an environment where they feel connected to each other; they can try, fail and try again; they are supported and encouraged to step out of their comfort zones; and the effort is celebrated, not just the results.

While I am far from swimming like a fish, I am not as scared as I was before. Recently I took another step forward in facing this fear and jumped into a 25ft deep pool in a sunken lava tube. The water was dark and murky and it took way too long to get back to the surface. It was a terrifying experience, but I did it and when I saw a couple of my Scared Stiff buddies back at the pool I couldn’t wait to share with them.